Monadnock Region event to promote unity and diversity in N.H.’s outdoor spaces
A celebration of the Monadnock Region’s outdoor spaces begins Friday.
New Hampshire State Parks and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests are hosting volunteer opportunities and events for Monadnock Trails Week with the goal of creating community and protecting the region’s outdoor spaces.
Earl B. Hunter Jr. is the president and founder of Black Folks Camp Too, a business that aims to increase diversity in the outdoor industry. He's hosting a talk this Saturday called "Building Unity in the Outdoors." You can register to attend the event or online.
NHPR’s Morning Edition host Rick Ganley spoke with Hunter about his business and its mission. Below is a transcript of their conversation.
Rick Ganley: Your talk, “Unity in the Outdoors,” as made clear by the name, focuses on unity. What does unity mean to you?
Earl B. Hunter, Jr.: Well, you know, unity for us, we believe in treating everyone everywhere equally. Black Folks Camp Too, the campfire in our logo, it's in the center of our logo, we believe that once we get all folks around that campfire, we're going to start having some conversations, and we're going to find out we have more in common than differences.
Rick Ganley: Yeah, the campfire is an intimate setting, you know, I think, for people to talk. But tell us what you love about camping and what the outdoors means to you.
Earl B. Hunter, Jr.: Well, you know, I didn't camp at all as a kid. It was nothing that really crossed my mind, something I never did until I got into the industry in 2015. And so now camping to me is a place for relaxation. It's a place for gathering. It's a place for family. And so camping has been very therapeutic for me,not only for me, but for my family and for my friends as well. And I, as the leader of Black Folks Camp Too, we want to make sure that we're driving that same message [of]better health, physically and emotionally in the outdoors to folks that look like myself.
Rick Ganley: I know on the bio on your website, you talk about how the idea for Black Folks Camp Too actually came to you when you went on a three month camping trip with your son. Can you tell me about that?
Earl B. Hunter, Jr.: The idea again of Black Folks Camp Too not only just came from the trip that my son and I took around the country, which was amazing. We traveled from North Carolina to [British Columbia]., and we camped almost three months. And we traveled over 14,000 miles. And it was amazing. It was during the summer. I had an opportunity to connect with my seven-year-old son at the time. But at that time, while connecting with my kid, I noticed something that we only saw one Black family, and that was weird to me.
But now, as we have started to dig down into the understanding of why that is, we have done a better job of sharing this messaging to everyone, why more Black folks haven't been in these campgrounds. And again, we spend 20 percent of our time at Black Folks Camp Too on why folks haven't been in the outdoors. And we spent 80 percent of our time on how we're creating solutions to actually improve that.
Rick Ganley: So tell me about that. Tell me how your business works to bring more Black folks into those outdoor spaces.
Earl B. Hunter, Jr.: Well, as a company, what we've done is we've gathered a lot of data. You know, we had an opportunity to take out over 400 folks, particularly Black folks, in the outdoors. And once we got the data on the reason why many of the folks that we took out didn't really go in the outdoors – it was their first time – it gave us an opportunity to really dive into the space so we can share this knowledge with the industry and with other lifestyle, which are the 95 percent of white folks who love the outdoors. We needed to share with that group of folks on why they haven't seen folks that look like me in the outdoors, which is very profound.
I knew why I didn't go in the outdoors. I knew that I didn't go in the outdoors as a kid because of what my great grandmother had shared with me. She said that the outdoors were for white folks, and that was something that stuck with me. And also understanding, me being an executive, one of the only Black executives in a $114 billion dollar industry at the time, which is the RV industry, we never really invited Black folks or folks who look like me into this lifestyle, or we didn't do it intentionally.
And our job as a company is to make sure that the outdoor industry, they do it intentionally. We also want to make sure that Black folks know that they're invited and they're welcome. The bottom line is there's a huge ROI to getting more folks in the outdoors. And ROI for most folks is “return on investment,” but for us it's “return on inclusion.”